Justice for corporate deaths: royal assent for corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide act
26 July 2007
Companies whose gross negligence leads to the death of individuals will now face prosecution for manslaughter under tough new legislation approved today.
Under the new law companies, organisations and, for the first time, Government bodies face an unlimited fine if they are found to have caused death due to their gross corporate health and safety failures.
The Corporate Manslaughter Act is a landmark in law and the culmination of ten years of campaigning by unions and other groups.
Employees of companies, consumers and other individuals will be offered greater protection against corporate negligence. The new law will focus the minds of those in companies and other organisations by ensuring that they take health and safety obligations seriously.
Justice Minister Maria Eagle said,
"The Corporate Manslaughter Bill is a ground-breaking piece of legislation. This is about ensuring justice for victims of corporate failures. For too long it has been virtually impossible to prosecute large companies for management failures leading to deaths.
"Today's Act changes this, for the first time companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter on the basis of gross corporate failures in health and safety. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act will make it easier to prosecute companies who fail to protect people.
"We are sending out a very powerful deterrent message to those organisations which do not take their health and safety responsibilities seriously."
The Corporate Manslaughter Act:
- will make it easier to prosecute companies and other large organisations when gross failures in the management of health and safety lead to death by delivering a new, more effective basis for corporate liability;
- has reformed the law so that a key obstacle to successful prosecutions has now been removed. It means that both small and large companies can be held liable for manslaughter where gross failures in the management of health and safety cause death, not just health and safety violations;
- complements the current law under which individuals can be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter and health and safety offences, where there is direct evidence of their culpability. The Act builds on existing health and safety legislation so the new offence does not impose new regulations on business;
- lifts Crown immunity to prosecution. Crown bodies such as Government departments will be liable to prosecution for the first time. So the Act will apply to companies and other corporate bodies, in the public and private sector, Government departments, police forces and certain unincorporated bodies, such as partnerships, where these are employers.
1. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill was published on 21 July 2006.
2. Further details on the Act are available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/corporatemanslaughter2007.htm
3. The Act will come into force on 6 April 2008 and the Ministry of Justice will issue further guidance for organisations affected by the Act in the Autumn. Extension of the offence to deaths in custody will not come into effect on the 6 April, but at a later date. The Government will keep implementation under review.
4. The Act is about corporate liability, not increasing liability for individual directors or managers who can already be held to account through health and safety laws and the common law of manslaughter.
5. Any further media enquiries on this news release should be directed to Michael Duncan at the Ministry of Justice Press Office on Tel. 020 7210 8803.
Public queries: 020 3334 3555
Press queries: 020 3334 3536
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